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May 2024

Claire Alford - 2024 Udall Scholar

Claire Alford - 2024 Udall Scholar

Udall Foundation Selects Claire Alford As 2024 Scholarship Recipient

SANTA CLARA, Calif., May 3, 2024Claire Alford ’25 has been selected as a 2024 Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation Scholar. She is the second Santa Clara University (SCU) student to win this award and the first Bronco Udall Scholar since 2018. She received an honorable mention in the competition in 2023.

The Udall Scholarship honors college sophomores and juniors who have demonstrated a commitment to the environment, Native American health care, or tribal public policy. A descendent of the Absentee-Shawnee Tribe of Oklahoma, Alford is one of 55 Udall Scholars selected nationally from 406 nominees representing 192 colleges and universities. 

The award provides up to $7,000 for tuition, room and board, or other educational expenses and the opportunity to travel to the foundation’s headquarters in Tucson, Arizona for a summer conference.

Alford, who grew up in Santa Maria, CA, is a public health science major. She studies the biological and chemical functioning of the human body and the influence of environmental and social factors on human health. After graduation, she plans to attend medical school and provide accessible healthcare to the Native American community.

"Claire Alford is so deserving of being a 2024 Udall Scholar,” said Sonja Mackenzie, Ph.D. chair of the public health department. “Her desire to advance Native American healthcare and her commitment to addressing public health challenges through innovative research and community engagement are truly commendable. Claire's passion and drive make her a shining example of future leaders in our field."

Claire Alford and Samira Billow stand with their poster at ACS Fall 2023

Claire Alford and Samira Billow stand with their poster at ACS Fall 2023

Alford has appreciated being able to engage in research projects throughout her undergraduate career. She is a former NSF Center for Sustainable Nanotechnology Summer Undergraduate Research Student, and she currently works in Korin Wheeler, Ph.D.’s biochemistry lab where she investigates the environmental and human health implications of nanomaterials. Early research included studying the interactions of nanoparticles with photosynthetic proteins in plants. She recently presented her research on the growing application of carbon-based nanodrugs in biomedical treatments, including targeted cancer drug delivery at the American Chemical Society’s Fall 2023 Meeting in San Francisco.

Away from the lab, Alford is the president of the University’s Native American Coalition for Change (NACC). Each year, she and NACC build hygiene kits for local non-profit organizations—past recipients have included the YMCA and the Indian Health Center of Santa Clara Valley. NACC and Alford are also instrumental in coordinating SCU’s annual powwow. Now in its fourth year, the 2024 powwow, on May 4, is expected to be the largest yet featuring native performers and vendors from throughout the region.

“I am thrilled to accept this honor from the Udall Foundation as I continue my work toward making healthcare more accessible for Native communities,” said Alford. “I consider this a win for Santa Clara University, as I could not have done it without the support and guidance of so many people in the wonderful SCU community!”

Alford credits her cumulative experience, studying in the Department of Public Health and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, involvement in the Native American Coalition for Change, the Santa Clara Powwow, engagement with the local Indian Health Center and Native American community, and participation in Partners in Health Engage, for thoroughly preparing her to become a competitive applicant for the Udall Scholarship. She expressed gratitude to Korin Wheeler, Ph.D., Michele Parker, Ph.D, Ray Plaza, Ph.D., and the Office of Student Fellowships for their support during the application process.

The Office of Student Fellowships (OSF) supports Santa Clara University students and alumni as they apply for competitive, merit-based scholarships and fellowship opportunities. OSF assists candidates by coordinating institutional endorsement and assisting with the scholarship application process. 

About the Udall Foundation

The Morris K. Udall Foundation was established by the U.S. Congress in 1992 as an independent executive branch agency to honor Morris K. Udall's lasting impact on this Nation’s environment, public lands, and natural resources, and his support of the rights and self-governance of Native Americans and Alaska Natives. In 2009, Congress enacted legislation to also honor Stewart L. Udall for his half-century of distinguished national leadership in environmental and Native American policy. The agency is known today as the Morris K. Udall and Stewart L. Udall Foundation (Udall Foundation) and is headquartered in Tucson, Arizona.

About Santa Clara University

Founded in 1851, Santa Clara University sits in the heart of Silicon Valley—the world’s most innovative and entrepreneurial region. The University’s stunningly landscaped 106-acre campus is home to the historic Mission Santa Clara de Asís. Ranked among the top 15 percent of national universities by U.S. News & World Report, SCU has among the best four-year graduation rates in the nation and is rated by PayScale in the top 1 percent of universities with the highest-paid graduates. SCU has produced elite levels of Fulbright Scholars as well as four Rhodes Scholars. With undergraduate programs in arts and sciences, business, and engineering, and graduate programs in six disciplines, the curriculum blends high-tech innovation with social consciousness grounded in the tradition of Jesuit, Catholic education.  For more information see

Media Contact

Lisa Robinson | SCU Media Communications | | 408-551-3601

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